How do I look? If there's one thing more eye-catching than a room decorated with purple walls and faux-Georgian furniture, it's the man in leather trousers and flowing silk shirt behind it all. Meet Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the handy dandy of daytime television
Really, it's all very chaste, very Lancelot and Guinevere. My ladies all have husbands - big, beefy blokes with no hair - who come along to the openings and stand in a corner looking sulky. But I am beginning to get letters from straight blokes who start off writing about how their wives have made them watch Changing Rooms and how at first they hated me and how arrogant I was, but then they tell me how they've come round. Sometimes they have some question about DIY, but they end up asking what conditioner I use. I'm just waiting to be offered a hair commercial, but the one I really want is Ferrero Rocher because that is me to a tee.
Historically - and I'm passionate about history - long hair on men was a very important symbol. Think about the 17th century: it was a power statement, a virility statement. In the 20th century, long hair marks you out. It's a very obvious branding: you are an arty type, or, in the words of father Royle of The Royle Family, you're a nancy boy. That assumption is something that I have never been bothered by. There was a game we used to play on location in which you had to name 10 people who were camp but not gay. I know it sounds like a Donna Summer hit, but I am what I am. There was a stage when I was at Camberwell Art School when the "county" girls arrived and they all automatically assumed that I was gay. I would do little to discourage that. I found it a positive element of the seduction procedure, shall we say. In fact that's how I ended up with Jackie, my wife. She thought I was gay until I pounced on her.
It was because of Jackie that I cut my hair short for the one and only time. She was concerned about me meeting her grandfather, Geoffrey, who was a very well-respected water engineer and very "county". Jackie had this vision that I would never get on with Geoffrey because he wouldn't be able to deal with my hair, but the minute I turned up, I knew that there would have been no problem. The times you can't get away with long hair are when people sniff that it is not the real you, that you are being pretentious.
I am very grey already, but I don't worry about it. Even though I'm the 81st sexiest man on the planet according to Cosmopolitan, first and foremost I'm an interior designer. To be named on the list was amusing, touching, flattering, even. In anyone else's hands I would probably find it a bit tacky, but in Cosmopolitan you always feel the readership have a bit of intelligence and that it can't be entirely without irony. The fact that number 82 is Eddie Izzard says it all.
Otherwise I still look more or less the same as I did before I started doing television four years ago. Obviously now things are lovelier because I get more frocks. I don't have to pad the wardrobe out with little bits of Top Man anymore. I can get it all from William Hunt, who made my suits for Fantasy Rooms. There has always been a degree of surreal absurdity to the fact that I do weekend DIY in velvet and leather and floaty silk, but I have no comfortable clothes. If I'm playing with my daughters Cecile and Hermione, who are four and one, I still wear velvet. We're a very dressy little family. Everything is for display.
Part of the reason I dress like this is because I love historical role play. I went to the National Television Awards recently and turned up in a suit made from the Welsh flag. That night, as far as I was concerned, I was back in the 14th century and I was going into a foreign court with my banners flying. That's the really sad delusory bit - not the ladies' fantasies about me, but me and my role-playing.
`Fantasy Rooms', by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, is published by Boxtree, priced pounds 18.99
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